A dusky pink summer dawn, stepping
out the porch door, halt. Dread at
the smell of unnatural heat. How close?
Check the wind, look for a plume.
Scan the paddocks, the horses will know.
No reprieve from fires last winter, the
relentless sun dries new grass to a pale
tan before it can mature to green, noxious
weeds shrivel. Throwing morning hay,
the sun rises from the dull horizon,
casting an unholy shadow. I’ve seen a
grass fire snap and pop across the prairie,
a wide, flat explosion, too quick to evade,
black exhaust smoldering behind. The
less fuel, the faster fire runs, smoke thick
enough to kill what flames can’t reach. Safe
for now, it’s only a smoky fog, a dirge blown
in from the west. The smell of burnt lives;
the taste of ash, both wild and tame. Head
shaking with guilty thanks, horrified at
the expense others have paid for my relief.